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The Process of Salvation (Romans 8:29-30)
The Work and Ministry of the Holy Spirit
The Process of Salvation
Romans 8:29-30
 
Tonight we come to a verse and a topic that I have dreaded in some ways, and yet at the same time been excited to deal with. 
 
I have dreaded it because the topic it deals with is one of the most controversial in the Christian faith.  In our own Southern Baptist circles there is a great divide over the topic of predestination and election and Calvinism. And it is unfortunate that a subject that is so fundamental to our salvation causes such division.
 
On the other hand, it is a verse and a topic that deals with the security of our salvation, and the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit in securing that salvation for all of eternity.
 
In fact, everything we've been studying so far in the chapter is leading us to this great climax of celebrating the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God that we enjoy through the finished work of Christ.
 
And it is unfortunate that these great truths found in this chapter such as "If God be for us, who can be against us", and "Nothing shall separate us from the the love of God" and "all things working together for our good" so often get separated from their context.  It is unfair to the verses as well as those to whom we speak and share if we misuse them and misapply them.
 
They are not promises for any circumstance and situation in which we find ourselves.  They have a context and a setting in which they fit. 
 
So let's review just a little bit and make sure we are in Bible country as we come once again to verses 28 through 30 of Romans 8.
 
The theme of the chapter is the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit and how He assures us that our salvation is eternal. So many people wonder and debate about the issue and whether you can lose your salvation.  That is an issue that has divided all of Christianity. 
 
And it's sad because the text of this chapter is so clear about the matter of a believer's security.  In fact, these three verses really sum up the most powerful statement of security in all the Bible.
 
Let's read them again
 
Romans 8:28-30
 
Obviously, this is a monumental passage of Scripture because what we find here is an iron-clad guarantee, without exception,  that those who are saved will one day be glorified.
 
It all begins in verse 1 with this statement that we will never experience condemnation, it continues with reminders that we have passed from death unto life, we are able to fulfill the demands of the law, we are a part of the family of God, and we will one day be like Jesus.
 
 
And God is so committed to that end result that He has determined that all things will contribute to making that happen.  Things work together for "good" in the sense that the word "good" there in verse 28 refers to final glory.  God causes all things to work together for the eternal purpose of glorifying us.
 
That has all been predetermined by Go.  He promises that what He has designed will come to pass. And all fo that is sort of summed up there at the end of verse 28.  These things work together for good to those who are called "according to His purpose." 
 
So what is His purpose?  His purpose was to save us and conform us to the image of His Son and we are forever secure because that is the way God planned it.  God designed it, Jesus secured it and the Holy Spirit guarantees it.
 
Last week, we looked at the purpose of God in salvation, and remember, salvation is not primarily about us.  We think it is and we present it like it is and we preach it like it is.  But the primary reason God decided to save some people and make them to be like Jesus was so that forever in heaven there would be a crowd of people gathered around the throne giving praise to His Son.
 
Included in this discussion regarding the purpose of salvation is not just a reference to us being conformed to the image of His son.  That is secondary  The primary purpose is that Jesus will be recognized and honored and praised as the firstborn, the preeminent One, among the brethren.
 
 
So that is the purpose.  But there is a progression God uses in accomplishing His purpose and that's what we find here in verses 29 and 30.
 
Now, before I talk about this individual components of the progression, I want you to know we are moving into deep water.  These are very deep and profound truths and we are very limited in our ability to understand everything they mean. 
 
After all, we are exploring the very purpose of God in the most significant and important theological truth the Bible contains, and as humans, even humans indwelt by the Spirit of God Himself, we are still not fully equipped to understand what we're going to be looking at. 
 
So just know from the very beginning that we're going to get in pretty deep.  In fact, I'm pretty sure we'll get in over our heads and go beyond our capability to comprehend.  But that's okay.  Because even though we are limited, God isn't. 
 
Any limitation on understanding this doctrine is not God's limitation, it is our limitation.  This is not at all unclear to God.  He is not at all confused by it.  It is not at all contradictory to Him.  He understands it perfectly. 
 
And I'm pretty sure before we finish, someone is going to think God is unfair. When it comes to this doctrine, there is a temptation sin against God in that way.  But to question the wisdom of God is sinful.  To question the justice of God is sinful.  To question the love of God is sinful.  The only thing that we need to question is the weakness of our own understanding.
He is perfectly wise, perfectly just, perfectly loving and His plan is in accord with all of those perfections.
 
So together, let's try to wrap our minds around this incredible progression of salvation that every person who is saved travels.  
 
One final thought by way of introduction, then we'll get into the text. The general truth given by the Holy Spirit through the inspired writer Paul is that God causes all things to work together in a way that brings us to eternal glory because that's the way He planned it. 
 
In fact, verse 31 adds, "If God is for us, who is against us?"  In other words, if God, who is the supreme power of the universe, is working out this plan, who could ever prevent it from being fulfilled?  Answer: No one.  We are secure eternally in the purpose of God.
 
Paul wrote often about this subject.  In Ephesians 1:4 he says, "In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will." 
 
In verse 9 of the same chapter, "According to His kind intention which He purposed in Christ." 
 
Verse 11: "Having been predestined according to His purpose." 
 
It all goes back to His purpose.  It all goes back to the fact that God is sovereign, God is on the throne.
 
 
 
Second Thessalonians 2:13, "God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation."
 
Second Timothy 1:9, "He saved us, called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose." 
 
There it is again.  This is all bound up in the eternal counsel of God which He Himself determined before the world began. 
 
John 1:12 reminds us that we have become the children of God, not by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but of God.  Putting it simply, salvation does not occur because of what you decide.  Salvation occurs because of what God has already decided.  It's all bound up in His eternal purpose.
 
So when talking about salvation, the beginning point is always God.  Lost man, in his depravity, will never choose to come to God unless God calls and initiates that process.  After all, we are dead in trespasses and sins and dead men don't do anything on their own.  
 
In fact, that's the point blank statement Jesus Himself made in John 6:44 when He said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”
 
So nobody gets saved unless the Father initiates that process by drawing them.  Once again, that is a part of the design and plan of God.
 
 
 
 
Now, with that in mind, let's consider what we read here in
 
verse 29
 
So the first step in the progression is
 
1.  Foreknowledge
 
The plan of God to bring into His family children who will be conformed to the image of Christ finds its deepest roots in the foreknowledge of God
 
So what does that mean?  When you hear the word "foreknowledge," what do you think of?  What does that word mean?  Well, let me give you some options.  Some people think it means
 
- foresight
 
For many who don't like to really deal with what foreknowledge means, this option is their escape.  They say, "Well, because God is God, He knows everything and He could look down through history and see who was going to believe and He just predetermined that those who would believe, whoever they were, would be like Jesus.
 
And a lot of that is true.  He can see history before it happens.  He can write it before it happens, and He does.  He knows everything. 
 
But the problem with that understanding is that sinful man cannot come to God on his own.  Remember, nobody comes unless the Father calls them. You cannot make a decision for Christ without His involvement.
And by the way, if God just saw who was going to believe, where did their faith come from?  The only way we get saved is when God gives us the faith with which we believe.  Not only is salvation a gift, the faith which brings salvation is a gift as well.    
 
Also, if God is just observing what people are going to do and responding to it, and He knew they were going to choose against Him, why did He create them to begin with?  And if you believe He didn't have any power over whether or not they were created, you really have a problem because now you have a God that's not sovereign, therefore He is not the King of the universe and He's not in control, and that's not the God of the Bible.
 
So while God has foresight, it doesn't go far enough when considering foreknowledge. 
 
Some people suggest it means
 
- foreordained
 
That thought moves us closer to what it means, but still doesn't go far enough.  Did God just decide, foreordain who would be saved?  You tell me: 
 
Listen to
 
1 Peter 1:1-2
 
What does the word "elect" mean?  It means "chosen".  He is writing to those who were chosen "according to the foreknowledge of God".
 
 
 
So those who are saved were foreordained to salvation, but does that mean God just arbitrarily chose some and rejected others?
 
It's interesting to see other occurrences of the word "foreordained" or "foreknowledge" in Scripture. 
 
It appears in 1 Peter 1:20 in reference to Christ and how before the worlds were formed, God had planned a method of redemption.  God didn't just see it.  He planned it.  He thought it through.  He was motivated by love.
 
Acts 2:23 says that Christ went to the cross "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God."  The word "counsel" is used in classical Greek to speak of the decision made by official councils.
It is a  decision that determines a course of action. The determinate counsel of God means God determined the course of action. 
 
In fact, there is a connection in our language to the word "horizon" which speaks of the boundaries or limits that are marked out.  God pre-decided a course of action, then marked off the boundaries of that action. 
 
So foreknowledge means determinate counsel.  Foreknowledge doesn't just mean God knows what's going to happen. It is a predetermined course of action with established boundaries and limits.
 
There is much more to it than just seeing the future or making a random decision.
 
 
And there is another component of the foreknowledge of God that really brings it into sharp focus and that is the motivation for the action.  God determines a course of action, but that action is motivated by love.
 
What was it that caused God, even before creation, to predetermine a plan of action that would cause a group of people to be saved and changed and brought into His presence forever?  It was all motivated by His love.
 
Throughout Scripture the concept of knowing is more than information.  In the Old Testament, it is quite common to find the word "know" speaking of a love relationship.  Amos used that language to talk about how out of all the nations in the world, God knew the Israelites.   
 
Does that mean that out of all the families of the earth, God was only aware of the Jews?  No.  It means He had established a relationship with them and that relationship was a reflection of His love.  He knew them.  
 
All the way back in Genesis we read, "Cain knew his wife and she bore a son."  Obviously, that's talking about more than just knowing who she was! In Scripture, the word "know" is used to express the most intimate expressions of love.  We see it in the New Testament as well as Joseph is shocked to discover Mary is pregnant because  "He had never known her.”
 
 
 
So this concept of knowing carries the idea of that beautiful, intimate love that brings two together.  It has the idea of caring for someone.  The beauty of that is seen in 2 Timothy 2:19 where it says, "The Lord knows those who are His.”
 
And that's what foreknowledge is all about. Yes, God sees before it happens.  Yes, He is sovereign and in control, but there is also a fore-love in it.  And every time a person is saved it is the result of a predetermined, foreordained, foreseen love relationship born in the eternal purpose of God.
 
And it all took place before it ever happened, predetermined in the heart of God.  And one day, that person is born, that salvation becomes a reality in the flesh, and it lasts forever.  Is that not amazing?
 
So where are we? God has a purpose and that purpose is to express His love to sinners.  He predetermines on the basis of the desire to express His love to sinners which sinners He foreordains unto salvation and they will be the recipients of His eternal intimacy, His eternal love, and that of His Son.
 
The second word is
 
- predestined
 
Now predestined is really much easier to understand once you've dealt with foreknowledge because after the first step, everything else is a logical conclusion.  That means we can move a lot faster on the others.
 
 
Everything starts with this foreordaining, foreseeing, fore-loving decision of God.  That's step one.  Then those whom He foreordained to a love relationship are marked out to be like Christ.  It is predetermined that we will wind up in heaven like Jesus. 
 
And to that end, we are adopted into the family, as Ephesians 1:5 says. God’s love for the Son caused Him to choose us and our names were recorded in the Lamb's book of Life before the world began.  He started out with a predetermination to love us and on the basis of that He marked us out.
 
Predestined is simply speaking to the process that is initiated that will carry us forward to the goal God has determined.   
 
Third word:
 
- called
 
So now, with this word we move from eternity past into the present tense.  In eternity past He predetermined and foreordained to love and marked out the objects of that foreordaining love.
 
Now we come into time, and in time He activates His foreordained, predestined plan by calling us.  Now this is important to see.  There are five of these terms that are used to describe the process of salvation and "calling" is the middle term. 
 
Two precede it and two follow it and I think it fair to refer to "calling" as the central truth.  That doesn't mean it is more or less important, but rather than two lead up to it and two results come from it.
Also, it is significant in that it is the same word used in verse 28 to speak of those for whom all things are working together for good.  That is on behalf of "the called". 
 
And please don't misunderstand who it is that are identified in this way.  This is an inward call, not an outward call.  It's not talking about any and everybody who ever heard a sermon or evangelist or received a tract.
 
This is an inward call.  This is the saving, redeeming call.  This is John 6:44.  This is the drawing of the Father.  It is that saving, redeeming call.  It's done in time and it's done through the preaching of the gospel as the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to call out those who are foreordained.
 
So, God predetermined and foreordained to set His love upon some men and women, He marked out specifically who they would be, and then, in time,  He called us.  He called us to be saved, to be His own, to be set apart.  In fact, according to Romans 1:7, "He called us to be saints." 
 
Like some of you, our family doctor is Jeff Rother.  We chose him as a pediatrician when TJ was born and now the whole family, as well as a lot of extended family are under his care. 
 
Dr. Rother is Catholic and he and I have had some good theological discussions through the years. Recently I had followed the news of Stanley Rother, who was originally from Okarche, OK, being considered for sainthood in the Catholic church.  In fact, he was canonized in a ceremony at Cox Convention Center in OKC back in September.
Stanley served in Guatemala, and was murdered there by drug cartels backs in 199999.
 
He was a cousin to Dr. Rother's father.  As we were discussing that, I said, "That's a pretty big deal for a small-town Oklahoma boy!"
 
And that's true!  But it's an even bigger deal that by the grace of God we are made to be saints.  We are set apart unto holiness and service. 
 
By the way, this might be a good time to insert some Old Testament commentary in the discussion.  Even though the verse is a New Testament reference, it is talking about an Old Testament event.  Listen as I read
 
Romans 9:10-13
 
I point you to that passage for one primary reason.  Notice, he's talking about boys who aren't even born yet.  They haven't done anything good or bad.  And yet what happened with them and to them was determined before they were born so that God's purpose would be fulfilled and it was all done by "Him Who calls" before they were ever born.
 
We are called.  That is this inward, saving call that comes from God Himself as He draws us from death unto life.
 
I love the way Paul puts it in the second letter to the Thessalonians:
 
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
 
Listen:  You're not going to fall through the cracks between then and eternal glory.  The doctrine that you can lose your salvation is a repulsive twisting of Scripture that refuses to take clear instruction from the pages of the Word of God. 
 
God moves on your heart as you hear the gospel to convict you of sin and convince you of a coming judgment, and in faith and obedience, you respond to that call and are saved for eternity.
 
The call of God always occurs in the context of an understanding of the gospel.  You might hear it from a preacher or teacher, you might read it in a book or through the witness of a friend, but the conviction of sin and the desire for righteousness and a comprehension of forgiveness and the understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, when the heart responds to all of that, that's the call of God. 
 
Whom He predetermined and foreordained to love eternally, He marked out as predestined to go all the way to glory and be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.  That was the plan before time began.  Then in time He's been calling, calling, calling, calling.  And all whom He has ordained hear the call and believe.
 
Then comes the fourth great term and that is
 
- justified
 
Justified simply means to declare someone righteous.  It's a legal term that addresses our standing and position before God.
I would remind you that none of us deserve to stand before God because we have no righteousness of our own.  We are filthy and sinful.  I sin, I fail, I fall short, I don't love God perfectly with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength all the time, or my neighbor as myself.  I don't fulfill the law of God in perfection. 
 
But nonetheless, I stand as justified. God has declared me righteous.  So how could that happen? 
Only because God called me and I believed.  And in that moment, everything changed.  I got Christ and His righteousness and He took my sin and ugliness.   
 
God made "Him who knew no sin, Christ, to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 
 
And what happened was very simply this: On the cross God treated Jesus as if He had committed all the sins of all the people who would ever believe. God just punished Jesus for all the sins of all the people who would ever believe, so their sins were taken care of.  God gave Jesus our sins and then turned around and gave us His righteousness.
 
God treated Jesus as if He had committed all those sins though He had committed none of them, so that He could treat us as if we lived the perfect life of Jesus, although we do not. 
 
And since God's justice was satisfied by the sacrifice of Christ, sin needs no further punishment.  God, having been satisfied because Christ bore our sins in His own body on the cross, grants us His righteousness. 
 
By the way, did you ever wonder why Jesus had to be born and live for 33 years and have a life and all of that?  It was because there needed to be a perfect life.
 
He needed to fulfill all righteousness and live a perfect life so that perfect life could be credited to us.  That's the incredible truth of justification and it is by faith and faith alone.  You don't earn it, you can't gain it, you can't win it. It's not an honor that you get because you performed in a certain way. 
 
God declares you right before Him and treats you as if you lived the perfect life of Jesus Christ simply because you put your faith in Him.  That happened because He called you and He drew you.  He declares you forgiven, your sins paid for in Christ and you bear His righteousness.
 
It's just incredible!  Foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification and finally,
 
- glorified
 
Now notice, there are no gaps in the process. Nobody gets left behind.  Nobody gets off the bus anywhere along this track.  In fact, notice, it is all stated in the past tense, "Whom He justified, these He also glorified," as if it had already happened.
 
It is presented as an already accomplished reality because it's totally secure.  It's saying something as if it happened because it's so sure that it will.
 
 
 
Look, I couldn't save myself, I didn't save myself and I can't keep myself saved but I don't have to worry about that. The God who chose me because of His predetermined love, the God who put the boundaries around my life and said, "This one belongs to Me," the God who called me, drew me out of the darkness, out of the death, to put my trust in Jesus Christ with repentance, the God who then took care of my sins in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and imputed the righteousness of Christ to me is going to be the God that brings me to glory. 
 
I didn't start this deal and I don't have the capability to finish it.  Frankly, folks, I'm just along for the ride and this is some ride.
 
It's not apart from my faith, but it's by the prompting of the Spirit of God that I can believe.
 
Now, let me try and anticipate the question I might have generated in your mind.  What about those who don't believe?  Aren't they responsible?"  Yes.  If you don't believe, you reject the gospel and you go to hell in your natural, blind, dead condition it’s because you deserve it and you're going to bear the punishment for that because you're responsible for that.
 
You say, "But I don't understand that.  I don't understand how, if you go to heaven because you're chosen, God can then hold people responsible who go to hell cause they weren't chosen." 
 
That's not the right way to think about it.  It doesn't work like that.  People don't go to hell because they weren't chosen.  They go to hell because they didn't believe in Jesus. 
You say, "But I don't understand that."  Of course you don't understand that. I don't understand that either because it's not understandable. 
 
So how do I respond to it?  I take the gospel to everyone I can and give them the opportunity to trust Jesus.  And I do that because the Bible tells me that we are to preach a message of repentance.  We tell people to choose today who you will serve.  We remind them that whosoever will may come. 
 
And that seems like a contradiction but it appears that way only because our comprehension is too puny to absorb it. But I can promise you this: It’s not a problem to God.  I don't know how it works.  I just know the same Bible that tells me about both foreknowledge and predestination also tells me about human responsibility. 
 
And anytime I camp in one or the other and spend all my time there, I'll get myself in a mess.  If I'll just stick with the stuff and find the balance I'll be alright. 
 
Therefore to the church, my message is God has foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified you.  And my message to the lost :  Come and be saved.
 
The saved are on their way to heaven and nothing will interrupt that process.  Sinners are told to believe and if they don't believe they'll perish. 
 
 
 
 
The same Jesus that said to those who would not believe, "Where I'm going you're not going to be able to come because you don't believe on Me" also said to the church "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."  And if they don't believe that's their fault, they're guilty and they'll perish.
 
I don't understand how that all works together.  In fact, just to be honest, the things I don't understand in the Bible far outnumber the things I do
 
For instance, you can ask me who wrote the book of Hebrews.  I don't know.  But I believe the Holy Spirit inspired it and preserved it and today, I read it with confidence as a part of the inerrant Word of God.
 
I don't understand how a person withstands temptation or has a victory through faith.  Did you do it or did God do it through the Holy Spirit living within you?  i don't understand how all that works.
 
And yet, I live under a divine compulsion to read and accept the Bible and live under its direction, even when I can't fully comprehend all it says.
 
I just know that sinners are accountable to God to believe and I just know we're to make sure that every sinner hears the gospel and we're to beg them to be reconciled to God, aren't we?  I don't know how God sorts through all of that but I'll tell you what, He doesn't expend any energy trying to figure it out.  It's crystal clear to Him, it's just not to us.
 
 
 
The Bible has a lot of apparent contradictions and things that cause us to scratch our heads. But that is one of the reasons I know God wrote the Bible.  If man had written it, the things that don't seem to agree would have been edited out or fixed. 
 
And yet that stand as a testimony to the heart and mind of a God that is way beyond us.  They are far beyond  human understanding.  I am comforted in that mystery and reminded of what we read  in Deuteronomy 29:29: "The secret things belong to the Lord." 
 
Ultimately, what we read here is that He determined in the beginning to bring us to glory.  And nobody in that process gets lost, and nobody, but nobody will keep that from happening. 
 
Let's pray.
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